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Saturday, July 30, 2011


Fecundity. You could look it up, but I already did. It means reproducing, especially in abundance. It’s the only word for the asparagus beans, aka yard-long beans, growing in a couple of raised beds in my back yard. I’ve picked them fresh for several dinners, frozen a couple of pounds and given a bagful to my daughter. Now I’m harvesting the dry pods, which contain the black-eyed red beans you see on the plate. The plants are producing new fresh pods even as the older pods gradually fade and shrivel and harden. I picked both the green and brown pods in the photo at the same time.
There must be a trick to harvesting the dry beans, but I don’t know it. Sometimes the pod will split down the middle, and I can peel the halves apart so the beans drop into a dish. Other times, it just breaks, and I have to split and twist the pod at each bulge to release the bean. I feel very pioneer when I sit down to shell the beans, even though I am doing it at the Formica island in my air-conditioned kitchen. I do know how easy I have it. If my little garden were our only food source, we’d be real skinny, but I think I’m at least getting a hint of what it’s like to eat from the earth “in toil…all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and  to dust you shall return.” Sounds pretty discouraging, but the one who cursed the earth also gives us life “more abundantly.” You might even say with fecundity. I have a hint of that too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Purple Dragons to the Rescue

I might have run for the insecticide soap-- or a blowtorch-- at the sight of these little monsters on my bean plants if I hadn't heard earlier about the purple dragons. A speaker at our church's garden seminar told us about his daughter's bean tepee, where she would sit and read and be a little girl. Aphids invaded. He didn't want to spray the tepee with chemicals, so he proposed that they wait a few days and see what happened. When he asked later how things were with the bean plants, his daughter said, "It's all right, Daddy. Purple dragons are eating the aphids." Ladybug larvae are purple dragons. 
I had sprayed soap on the aphid hordes on my bean plants, but it scarcely made a dent in the population. Then came the purple dragons, about half an inch long, and voracious. They slithered over the bean blossoms, nibbling aphids as they went, and left the plants perfectly clean. 
Today, voila, ladybugs. While picking some yard-long beans, I was astonished by the intense color and the size of this ladybug. It looked like a drop of red enamel, still wet. I ran for the camera, which I suppose I will have to start keeping on the tripod. It's tricky to take a close-up photo with a breeze moving the leaf and instinct moving the subject. Its less flashy cousin, lower down on the plants, was a little easier to capture. 

Friday, July 1, 2011


I like to sew. This surprises people, I suppose  because I come across as intellectual for the most part, and most folks don't connect that with cutting and stitching. But here I am, making bibs in unusual fabrics for my little grandson. Sometimes I giggle a bit over such projects and hug them. Is that weird? I love picking the fabrics and patterns and putting things together  to give to people I love. Since my oldest son was born 36 years ago, I've made vast numbers of overalls and jammies and Easter dresses. I've made pillows in the shape of letters of the alphabet and pink fleece bears and baby comforters. When I see someone wearing or using something I made with my own hands, I'm proud and happy. It seems to me an important part of being human to design and produce something real. 
 An old-fashioned fireman print with wavy red stripes made a nifty comforter for the new son of a young lady I've known since she was a girl. She seemed to appreciate having something made by hand.